Board cancels public hearing after Legislature raises sales age for tobacco to 21

July 10, 2017

Commissioner Sharon Meieran
Commissioner Sharon Meieran
After the Oregon Senate approved raising the sales age of tobacco to 21 in Oregon last week, Multnomah County has canceled a scheduled public hearing July 13 to do the same. Senate Bill 754 is now headed to the governor’s office for signature.

Commissioner Sharon Meieran, D-1- said  "Two weeks ago, I called for a public hearing on raising the legal age to purchase tobacco and vape products from 18 to 21 in Multnomah County. I am thrilled to be able to cancel the July 13 public hearing on Tobacco 21 in light of the Oregon Legislature's recent passage of Senate Bill 754, which will raise the sales age to 21 statewide.

The bill makes it an offense to sell tobacco products or inhalant delivery systems to people under 21. Violators would face fines ranging from $50 to $1,000 for individuals and businesses. It is not illegal to possess tobacco under 21, but it is to sell it to people under 21. 

An emergency room physician, Dr. Meieran announced her intention at the regular June 22 Board of County Commissioners meeting and in a letter to friends and colleagues. On July 7, she said:

 “I am very proud of my colleagues in Salem who voted to make this life-saving public health policy a reality across Oregon-- Multnomah County will benefit, and so will thousands of other Oregonians. I look forward to working alongside our health department and other stakeholders to successfully implement this new state law here in Multnomah County."

The minimum age to buy tobacco was set at 18 more than two years ago. In 2005, the City of Needham, Mass. raised the legal age to 21. By the end of 2015, more than 100 cities had followed suit. On July 6, the Oregon Legislature made Oregon the third state to do so behind Hawaii and California.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Oregon, according to the Oregon Health Authority, killing an estimated 7,00 people and costing $2.5 billion. Last year, when the Board of County Commissioners held a series of public hearings before licensing tobacco retailers, they heard repeated requests that the tobacco age be raised to that of alcohol and marijuana.

The Multnomah County Health Department had presented evidence of the harms of maintain 18, by delaying the age at which young people, including high school students, begin smoking.